The Map Is Not The Territory

A blog by Christian Willmes.

Caution with ResearchGate and Academia, they are not Open Science

| categories: open science, science 2.0, research | View Comments

In this post I will share my views on two academic social media platforms ResearchGate and I will explain why I believe they are not a step “in the right direction”, in the sense of supporting Open Science, and why they are potentially dangerous for the aims of the Open Science movement.

At first I want to point out, that these two platforms are not generally bad, they also have their positive aspects. These positive aspects are the facilitation of Web 2.0 technology for the academic context. This kind of technology is also known as Science 2.0. These platforms provide a social network layer into academia and the sciences, that contribute to improve networking among researchers from all over the world.

I also want to point out, that I support the idea of Open Science, and my personal aim is to advocate and implement this open approach and idea for the conduct of research and science. Open Science is more an approach on how to conduct research and science, and not so much a particular application or implementation. It has to do with Open Licensing (Copyright), Open Access, Open Source and a generally open stance to and for the conduct of science.

The concept of Science 2.0 is about the application of Web 2.0 technology to facilitate the conduct of (open) science. It provides technology that allows to collaboratively conduct science and share information using web technology. But the application of Science 2.0 tools and platforms does not automatically result in Open Science. It is possible to apply Science 2.0 technology to collaborate on a research project, that publishes its results in a traditional closed science manner. On the other hand it is also possible to conduct Open Science without the application of Science 2.0 tools, for example writing an old school research article using local proprietary M$ Word and IBM SPSS software, but publishing the results in an Open Access journal.

Now, having the terminology straight, I start with the critique of the two Science 2.0 applications ResearchGate and Academia, and give some suggestions for alternatives, or at least a morre open solution to post and share your work on these platforms.

Demand or at least strong push for uploading articles and other research outputs

To properly list your works and research outputs in your RersearchGate or Academia profiles, you need to upload the work into their repositories. ResearchGate is more predatory in this aspect compared to Academia, because Academia at least allows to link to an online resource, and it is generally less demanding to provide the actual PDF when listing a research output on your profile. In the case of Academia it is Ok to just enter the Bibliographic metadata and link to an online resource allowing any URL. ResearchGate on the contrary demands a PDF, or at least a DOI. If you do not have a proper DOI for your publication, and if you do not want to upload a PDF containing the publication, you basically can’t list this work on your ResearchGate profile.

eMail spam and nudging from ResearchGate

Another not so nice aspect of ResearchGate is its policy and conduct for eMailing its users. For example I got an Email by RG asking me if I was interested in the research a contact of my RG network is working on right now, including a link saying something like “See what X is working on”. After clicking the link, RG send a request to that contact asking him in my name , to update his RG profile to show what he is currently working on. This way RG used me to nudge a user to provide more data about him to RG. Without explanation from my side, how this request happened, that I did not intend to issue, would have had negative impact on my relationship to this researcher. This was for me the first big foul play that ResearchGate committed against me.

A second foulplay was, that they nudged me in an email to upload a publication of mine to their repository. The wrote, that they found an online resource of one of my publications. After clicking on the “See publication” link, a message was shown, that said I that they will upload this resource to my profile. I tweeted about this:

Here, RG was clearly nudging me to click a link, and assume (wrongly) that I would consent in uploading this resource. As you can see from these incidents, I have my doubts about RG in particular. From Academia I did not get this kind of offensive and also aggressive spam emails.


The best alternative would be an own website, where you have full control on how you share your work. This can be your institutional web page, an own blog or even a full own web application. The downside of this approach is of course, that you will not profit from the network effect that Academia and ResearchGate are generating. You would be responsible to share your works by your own in social networks like Twitter or Facebook, to at least promote your work a bit.

Another good alternative is ORCID, here you can list your works in a standardized manner, you can link your profile from your emails, your social media profiles or your web pages. GoogleScholar is another alternative that comes into mind.

A more open solution for posting work in ResearchGate and Academia

At the end of this quite negative post about ResearchGate and Academia, I want to provide a solution for how you can share your work on these platforms without feeding them all your data, publications and works.

Just create a plain and simple PDF containing the bibliographic metadata of your work, an abstract, or even an extended abstract, and of course links to the online resources, where people can access the publication outside of these platforms. See an example of such a PDF here, and the according entry on RG.


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Excavation campaign Ardales and Sima de las Palomas

| categories: travel, archaeology, research | View Comments

This September I went to participate in my first archaeological excavation campaign. After I finally successfully finished my PhD this summer, I could manage to find the time to participate in a campaign of the CRC 806 project, I work for since more than five years. My colleagues from archaeology offered me to participate in field campaigns and excavations like this since I was part of the project, but before I finished my PhD, I did not found the time.

The excavation was located in southern Spain, in Andalusia about 50 km north west from Malaga. See the map below for the locations refered to in this blog post. Two sites were excavated in this campaign. The Cueva de Ardales, a karstic cave with findings of human remains dating 35.000 years back. And at the Sima de las Palomas de Teba, also with findings dating back to the paleolithic.

Because this was my first excavation, I did not really know what to expect in terms of how I could participate and contribute in the actual archaeological work of the campaign, as well as from the whole setting, like how we were accommodated and how everything is scheduled etc..

Regarding the participation in the field work, this was really easy. My fellow campaign participants, who are all quite experienced field archaeologists explained all task to me and I could do them within hours on my own. At the Campo (an abandoned football field in Ardales including a building housing former locker rooms, toilets and showers), the sediments of the excavations were investigated for further findings, that were not directly recognized during the actual excavation, I got to wash the sediments from the excavation squares (German term “Schlämmen”), which is a fun thing in the hot southern Spain sun, because you basically play with water and mud. :-) Additionally, I looked and sorted through the washed sediments for things like bones, small artifacts, shells and snails, as well as charcoal remains. This second task needs way more concentration than just washing the sediments, so I washed sediments if I had the choice. ;-)

On the excavation sites itself I could help measure the positions of findings using a Tachymeter, which I theoretically already knew from my undergrad Cartography “Vermessungskunde” courses. And sometimes I was allowed actually excavating sitting on the ground and scratching sediments with a scraper on an 50x50 cm square. This was awesome, I felt like a real archaeologist! ;-) My biggest find was a part of a rodent skull in the Cueva Ardales! And of course, I could apply myself in helping with carrying equipment as well as sediment bags to and from sites (see photos of the excavation sites in the gallery below).

Regarding the accommodation, it was even better! The campaign staff was living in apartments on the Parques Ardales camp ground. The apartments were really nice, and the parque was situated directly at the shores of the lake you can see on the map above. So, we could go swimming after work, which we did as often we could (see the photos of the Parque Ardales in the gallery below).

We also did some trips to the surrounding areas on our free days (Sundays) and hiking at Caminito del Rey. The Caminito del Rey is a prepared 5 km hiking path through a canyon. The landscape is breathtaking (see the photos below), it was a great experience.

Another nice trip was on a Sunday to Gibraltar. It was a quite funny experience to cross the border and suddenly everybody speaks english and you have to pay things in Gibraltar Pound (not even UK Pound) and not Euro, unless you accept a bad exchange rate. But I was a bit disappointed, Gibraltar did not match my expectations. The city itself is actually not very nice, and it has the feeling of a big tourist destination without much further substance to me. We were not able to see the famous Neanderthal excavation sites, because our contact who would have been able to show us the site was not available on this day. Another cave in the Gibraltar Rock, where Neanderthals were found too, is now a theater. There were disco lights (sic!) and the floor was paved with concrete, almost all speleothems were cut off or stabilized with cement for safety reasons I guess, which really is not nice for the atmosphere in the cave. Additionally the weather was a bit foggy and cloudy (british! one could say) on this day, so we were not able to see Africa on the other side of the Straight of Gibraltar. But the Monkeys are really great and they made the trip worth it (see some photos of Gibraltar below).

Concludingly, it was a really great experience to take part in an archaeological excavation campaign and take part in the actual field work. The place of the excavation, Ardales and its surroundings are just beautiful, I would come back here any time. We had the best weather we could ask for, temperatures between 25 to 30 °C and almost no rain. And the excavation group was amazing, for the time there it felt a bit like family, really good atmosphere and no anger or trouble at all. Actually, I was a bit scared before the trip, because I thought if more than 10 people hang on each other for more than four weeks there must be at least some trouble between people, but there was none, the opposite was the case we all had a very good time together. :) I may be interested in participating further campaigns in the future, if boundary conditions like time and work schedule allow for it.


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My summary of the FOSS4G 2016

| categories: conference, open source, geospatial, osgeo, research | View Comments

Last week I attended the FOSS4G 2016 conference in Bonn. I am still digesting my impressions, because there were a lot of them.
First, the location was really great. The new WCCB around the former german Bundestag parliament building is just beautiful, the technical facilities are brand new. I never sat in more comfortable chairs during a conference before. :-) See the FOSS4G flickr group photos to get an impression of the location (also embedded at the end of this post).

Then, the weather was just amazing, all three conference days with temperature of above 30°C, the venue is directly located at the river front, so you could just step outside and enjoy the weather with a beautiful view on the ships going on the Rhine river.

Besides this perfect boundary conditions for a successful conference, the presentations and talks were of very high quality and quantity too. The programm was very well selcted.

But one of the most remarkable thigs about FOSS4G 2016 is, that the video streaming and recordings of every talk of the conference were just perfect. I think this is because the @c3voc from the famous Chaos Computer Club (CCC) was in charge. Which is just priceless, or in other terms I know of no company you can hire to deliver such a video streaming setup, besides (maybe) a professional bradcasting company. You can find all the recordings from here, enjoy!

Additionally, I had two talks which went pretty well I think.

PaleoMaps talk

My first talk was on the first day of the conference, Wednesday 24th August, 15h at the Fireplace Room. The talk was about a new project we started within our Collaborative Research Centre, titled PaleoMaps: SDI for paleoenvironment GIS data".

Semantic MediaWiki @ OSGeo Wiki talk

My second talk was on the second day of the conference, Thursday 25th August, 12h in the Plenary Office. This talk was about my endeavours to improve the OSGeo wiki for collaboratively storing and handling structured information and data. The talk is titled "SMW @ OSGeo Wiki – How semantics improve the wiki and facilitate a collaborative database for OSGeo".

The conference

The rest of the conference was even more awesome. I was really happy to see the rising amount of talks concerning Linked Data and the Semantic Web. Here is a short list of talks I recommend you to watch the recordings:

  • How Linked Open Data finds the bar near you (Rob van Loon): Abstract | Video
  • Integrating the spatial web with linked open data using GeoDCAT-AP (Paul van Genuchten) : Abstract | Video
  • Spatial data and the Search engines (Paul van Genuchten): Abstract | Video
  • Leaflet.annotate - Semantic markup for geographic web maps in HTML (Malte Reißig): Abstract | Video

The talks on GeoNode and on CKAN were also very interesting to me, because I use those applications as Backend and Middleware for the Research Data Infrastrucutre CRC806-Database, that I develop, build and maintain during my research job at University of Cologne.

  • The Evolution of the GeoNode Community (Jeffrey Johnson): Abstract | Video
  • Implementing Open Geospatial Data Portals with CKAN, pycsw and PublicaMundi: the case (Angelos Tzotsos): Abstract | Video
  • A RESTful API for linking geodata (Francesco Bartoli): Abstract | Video

And one talk, I really want to recommend, is the last Keynote given by Peter Küsterer. The talk was titled: "Sahana as an indispensable tool for disaster management", and it told about the application of the Sahana software to manage the refugee situation in late summer of 2015 in Germany, when >1.000.000 refugees made their way to Germany.

And finally there was the closing ceremony and there were some Awards. The most important award, the Sol Katz Award went to Jeff McKenna, who could not attend the conference, but was able to send thanks and acceptance of the award through a great video message. Jonas Eberle got the best presentation award from the the Academic Track, the award for the best Poster went to Lorraine Barrythat was awarded with 500,- €, and Evan Rouault won the best developer award, that is recognized with 1000,- €. And here you can enjoy the many fotos, that were collected in the FOSS4G flickr pool:

And next year Boston!

The organizing team of the upcoming next FOSS4G 2017, was showing a "wicked awesome" video presenting the next hosting location of the conference series. I am really got fixed to the idea of going to Boston next year. Need to come up with a new idea or project, that I can present there to get my travel fundet by my University. :-)

Have fun!


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Preparations for FOSS4G 2016 in Bonn

| categories: conference, open source, geospatial, osgeo, research | View Comments

FOSS4G Conference

I am very much looking forward to participate in the 2016 FOSS4G conference taking place in Bonn, Germany this year. FOSS4G is one of the conferences I try to participate every year because I really like the spirit of the Open Source Geospatial community that gathers on this international conference series once a year during the dog days. My first FOSS4G was 2010 in Barcelona, then I was in Nottingham 2013 (my blog post about 2013 FOSS4G), 2014 I also attended at FOSS4G in Portland, about which I also blogged. So this year will be my fourth FOSS4G participation! And best is, it will be just around the corner from my home town Cologne, so I can stay at home during the conference and do not need to book travel and a hotel, which is quite weird for participating in an international conference :), but also quite comfortable and indeed cost saving. I will give two talks and will chair one session, on which I introduce some details in the following.

PaleoMaps talk

My first talk will be on the first day of the conference, Wednesday 24th August, 15h at the Fireplace Room. The talk will be about a new project we started within our Collaborative Research Centre, titled PaleoMaps: SDI for paleoenvironment GIS data". Strikingly (to me), the talk has the ID #555 in the conference system :). Here is the abstract of the talk:

Paleoenvironmental studies and according information (data) are abundantly pub-lished and available in the scientific record. However, GIS-based paleoenvironmental information and datasets are comparably rare. Here, we present an OpenScience approach for collecting and creating GIS-based data and maps of paleoenvironments, and publishing them in a web based Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI),for access by the archaeology and paleoenvironment communities. The Open Science approach to the publication of data, allows to properly cite the published datasets as bibliographic sources in research that builds upon these data sets.This paper has its focus on the implementation and setup of the Free and OpenSource Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) based SDI, and on the workflow for compiling and publishing the GIS data.

I submitted the talk for the FOSS4G Academic Track, on which I also volunteer as a reviewer and as a Track Editor, about which I will explain further below some more.

Semantic MediaWiki @ OSGeo Wiki talk

My second talk will be on the second day of the conference, Thursday 25th August, 12h in the Plenary Office. This talk is about my endeavours to improve the OSGeo wiki for collaboratively storing and handling structured information and data. The talk is titled "SMW @ OSGeo Wiki – How semantics improve the wiki and facilitate a collaborative database for OSGeo". Coincidentally, the talk has the ID #111, which also bugs me a bit :). The abstract of the talk is given in the following:

Recently, the OSGeo wiki was updated from an ancient version to the current LTS release of MediaWiki. This update broke the functionality of the first OSGeo wiki usermap implementation, dating back to 2008. The map shows the location of OSGeo members on a web map integrated into the wiki. A new version of the usermap [1] was implemented based on Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) [2] to replace the first usermap [3]. This presentation will describe the new features and possibilities that SMW adds to the OSGeo Wiki. After a short introduction to SMW, based on the OSGeo member model, that recently replaced the old usermap, a basic data model and its use in the wiki, as well as major features of SMW are explained. The data model development approach, using mobo [4], applied for implementing the OSGeo Members map will be explained briefly. Additionally, simple examples for bootstrapping smaller semantic models are given too. The presentation concludes with ideas for further applications of SMW in the OSGeo wiki, like the already implemented Advocate and Board lists pages, as well as possible applications, for example a collaboratively maintained OSGeo/FOSS4G service provider directory, or even a collaborative open geospatial data directory are proposed or suggested.

Session Chair

I also volunteer as Session Chair on the third day of the conference, Friday 26th August, Tunnel. The session will host two very interesting talks by well known members of the OSGeo community. The first talk will be given by Pirmin Kalberer on "Using and extending GeoPackages". And the second talk will be given by Sean Gillies on the topic GeoJSON and the IETF.

Academic Track

Additionally, I volunteered for organizing the Academic Track, together with Franz-Josef and Pradeepkumar. I was involved in three paper reviews as a reviewer, and in seven contributions as Track Editor, assigning reviewers and overseeing the review process.


I am sure, this will be a great conference. It will take place at the newly opened World Conference Center Bonn (WCCB), which is build around the former German Bundestag building, including the former Parliaments Plenary Chamber and further facilities of the Bonner Bundestag. It will be a great experience to meet at this historic, and also architecturally interesting place. As said, I am really looking forward to experience this special place, as well to meet all the great people of the Open Source Geospatial community.


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A 32c3 blog post, from someone who was not there

| categories: conference, open source, research | View Comments

As it is now almost tradition for me to follow the CCC Congress via video streaming between the years, during major years end home cleanup and holiday chill, I want to take note about some interesting talks and recommend you to see the recordings of this talks, embedded in this post.

First off, the video streaming, recording and its web publication delivered by the CCC Video Operation Center is top notch! It is possible to follow every talk, some of them even simultaneously translated and with sub texts in several languages. The videos were live streamed in several formats, embedded HTML5 video, or video streams to play from video player applications, such as VLC. Later on the video are published on the servers, without ads and without tracking. Good services for embedding and sharing of the videos are provided too. It's really awesome and most important it's rock solid and professional. I am really looking forward to FOSS4G 2016 in Bonn, where these guys will be doing the video recordings for the FOSS4G Conference.


The second part of this talk is very interesting, the presenter of this part was able to in some way reverse engineer, or at least to successfully trace, how the variables are tuned in the Volkswagen engines, for cheating the emissions on the test stands.

A pity that the first guy took so much time, because he did not told anything new. If you read for example the Spiegel Online headlines according to the #dieselgate you know evereything he said. Sadly, the talk was aborted by the moderator in the end, when the talk was getting most interesting, because they ran out of time.

Let's Encrypt

Let's encrypt is a great new service, for anyone running a web server or web site. This service makes it possible to get TLS/SSL certificates, accepted by all the major browsers, for free! I tried it on this very web site and server, and got it installed in about 5 minutes. Really easy and a great service indeed!

Onion Tor Talks

The first talk, State of the Onion, is getting a tradition at CCC Congress. Here the lead persons of the Tor project are delivering the latest news about the project to the community. An absolute must see, for anyone interested in security, privacy and decency on the internet.

The second Tor talk is more technical, but also shows interesting statistics and has some stories about for example, how Facebook uses Tor and Onion sites to deliver its services in repressional regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia or China.

A new kid on the block

Here, Katharina Nocun delivers THE "anti Facebook" Talk of this years Congress. The new kid on the block is in this case the open source decentralized Diaspora* social network. If Diaspora* is really new, is object-able, but she has some very valid observations to share and reminds us of why it is not a good idea to trust in a central commercial entity with to much of your private informations and data. Here is also a good article in German about her and this talk.

One year of securitarian drift in France

A very interesting talk, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks and the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, was given by two French activists form the la quadrature du net, the French CCC (in some sense). The French authorities and politics are strengthen the surveillance and diminishing the freedom of speech, because they think this increases the security. The two activists tell a quite shocking story about the current situation in france.

There were of course a lot more very interesting talks, but I leave it to the many crowds of the inter webs to report on this other talks. You can find all recordings on the CCC media servers, to virtually participate in the Congress like I did.

A happy new year to you all and of course have fun!


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